As of yesterday, the BBC stopped allowing over-75s to access the BBC for free – meaning millions of pensioners now have to fork out the annual £157.50 fee. Those who receive pension credit are exempt from paying the charge, but it has emerged many over-75s were asked to prove they received the benefit by sending over their bank statements in the post.
The move, which has prompted outrage, was highlighted after callers to a hotline set up to help pensioners with the charge were told to send bank statements to the TV Licensing offices to prove they receive pension credit.
At first advisers on the helpline, which is run by the outsourcing giant Capita, told callers they could send a photocopy or scan of their pension credit documents.
But many pensioners were unable to do this, as they do not have access to a photocopier or printer and were unable to leave their homes during the lockdown period.
Many of the over-75s have been required to shield and so were unable to enlist friends and family to help.
The BBC has asked pensioners to send bank statements to prove they receive pension credit
BBC TV Licence: Over-75s now have to pay the annual £157.50 fee
The advisers then suggested pensioners sent a bank statement or the original award letter for pension credit via post, alongside a note requesting its return.
But one employee said a “verbal declaration” over the phone giving pension credit information would be enough.
Those who were deaf or had difficulty speaking could post a bank statement.
That could affect a large proportion of pensioners, as about 70 percent of people over the age of 70 have some hearing loss, according to the Action on Hearing Loss charity.
JUST IN: BBC website crashes on first day of charge for over 75s TV licence fee
Campaigners have condemned the calls for pensioners to send over bank statements and warned it could put elderly people at risk of identity theft and fraud.
Caroline Abrahams director of Age UK said: “It will be extremely frustrating for older people to hear how potentially risky the process of apply ing for a free licence may be.
“Creating and sending copies of personal and sensitive financial material can expose older people to ID theft and fraud.”
Politicians have also responded to the measure, with Tory MP Esther McVey saying: “Surely not?! Security alert.”
TV licence fee changes: Why do you need a TV licence? [INSIGHT]
BBC risks losing those who most treasure it, says PATRICK O’FLYNN [COMMENT]
BBC TV licence fee plot savaged as over-75s offered way to fight back [DETAILS]
The BBC has come under fire for scrapping free TV licences for pensioners
Labour peer Lord Faulks of Cumnock also hit out at the news, and said: “If the elderly post bank statements, they are at an increased risk of identity theft.”
People also hit out at the move on Twitter, with one person writing: “Asking people for bank statements absolutely guarantees fraud.
“I bet the scammers have already been calling.”
The BBC responded to the report, and said TV Licensing offices were not “actively seeking bank statements”.
European TV licence fees in comparison
A BBC spokesperson said: “We’re writing directly to over 75s households and they do not need to do anything until they have received a letter from us.
“This letter will clearly set out what the recipient needs to do next and offer accessible formats including for those who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired, as well as access to a text service.
“If older people don’t wish to leave their home or can’t go online, call centre staff will prioritise a verbal declaration process to identify if customers are in recipient of Pension Credit.
“We are also giving all over 75s plenty of time to either set up a payment plan or to claim a free licence if they are eligible.
“In either case, no one needs to leave their home.
“TV Licensing are not actively seeking bank statements – this is simply an option and we don’t expect to make very much use of it. The TV Licensing team take extreme care with personal data and have a wide range of measures in place to protect it.”
Source Daily Express :: UK Feed